Over 3 Times More Green Jobs Per $1 Invested Than Fossil Fuel Or Nuclear Jobs

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Reposted from Solar Love:

Just as a quick reminder, if our national goal is to create jobs, investing in clean energy is several times more effective than investing in fossil fuel or nuclear jobs.

Robert Pollin, the President of Pear Energy and a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has studied this matter in depth with the Department of Energy and the International Labour Organization. As his Pear Energy team writes:

“The basic facts are simple. When we invest, say, $1 million in building the green economy, this creates about 17 jobs within the United States. By comparison, if we continue to spend as we do on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, you create only about 5 jobs per $1 million in spending. That is, we create about 12 more jobs for every $1 million in spending — 300 percent more jobs — every time we spend on building the green economy as opposed to maintaining our dependence on dirty and dangerous oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.”

For a visual representation and numbers for a variety of more specific sectors, check out this infographic:

Transit Rocks It. (Click Here To Enlarge.)
Transit & rail rock it, but solar’s not too shabby either. (Click Here To Enlarge.)

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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30 thoughts on “Over 3 Times More Green Jobs Per $1 Invested Than Fossil Fuel Or Nuclear Jobs

  • Uh huh. Exactly how does it create more jobs? I clicked on the supplied link. Nothing stood out.

    I’m not convinced more jobs is a good thing anyways. Energy is just a resource that allows us to accomplish real things. If green jobs requires more workers isn’t that a bad thing?

    • If an clean energy source can produce electricity for about the same or less cost than fossil fuel/nuclear – and – employ more people is not that a good thing?

      Seems to me it;s a win-win and win some more.

      • Yes. When put that way it makes sense. I’ll look at the references Zachary gave tonight.

        • I suspect it might turn out that many of the green jobs are “temporary”. That they will last for only the 20 to 40 years that it takes to install the needed renewable capacity.

          When that happens jobs per MWh or however one would like to measure them might turn out to be about the same.

          • 20 to 40 years? Haven’t renewables, wind and solar, been doubling every three years since 2000? If we are at 10% of our electrical in 2013 because of wind and solar then:
            20% in 2016 (3)
            40% in 2019 (6)
            80% in 2021 (9)
            160% in 2023 (12)
            320% in 2026 (15)
            640% in 2029 (18)

            In less than 20 years, not 20 to 40, we’ll be meeting all our electrical needs and probably taking the excesses to make methane as a replacement for oil. What’s wrong with my thinking? Nobody is saying this except for me so I must not be getting something right?

          • Remember, it’s a lot easier to double a small number than a large one.

            Doubling two means adding another two in one year.

            Doubling two hundred means adding another two hundred in one year.

            In their study, Jacobson and Delucchi calculated that we could get the world to almost 100% renewables with a massive World War II type effort. Like when we were working hard around the clock to crank out war materials.

            I use that as my “talking number”, that adequately scared the world could put the pedal to the floor and get off fossil fuels in roughly 20 years. I don’t think we’ll get scared soon enough and strong enough to have quit fossil fuels 20 years from now.

            Five years from now we might be amply concerned….

          • Thanks again. These forums are a great place to ask questions. It’s like having the experts at your fingertips!

            It will be interesting to see at what point the doubling ends. I’ll be looking for both World stats and USA stats. Currently though it seems like we have an infinite supply of farm land being wasted on biofuel. And more Chinese PV panels than grains of sand on the beach.

            We need farm equipment and robots to install PV in mass. Similar to how farm crops are handled now.

          • If you haven’t read the Jacobson and Delucchi 2009 Scientific American article you might want to.

            They took projections of how much energy the world would need in 2030 and calculated how many wind turbine, solar panels, etc. we’d need to install to produce that power with renewables And they showed how it would be possible for us to get there in 20 years.

            The paper is a bit dated. Solar panels have become more efficient as have wind turbines. We’d have to build fewer, but their numbers are good enough to give you an overall feel for the task.


          • No you are correct and Ray Kurzweil has been saying it and it’s actually doubling every 2yrs for the last 20 yrs thus 7 more doubles and 100% of world energy needs are met purely by solar covering 1% of the planet. Which equates to the size of Alberta so they’ll be something to cover that eye sore up once they’re done creating probably another worlds largest ecological disaster.

          • There’s no way that the world will get 100% of its electricity from solar.

            But if that were to happen how about we take a look at how much of the world’s surface would be covered by panel.

            See those little green rectangles? You think they equal 1% of the world’s land area?

            (You need to stop snorting Koch.)

          • David, I’m not arguing for the sake of argument.

            You posted incorrect information and I am countering it with facts.

            Re-read the link you posted. Kurzweil does not say that we will power the world with 100% solar. He is talking about how much solar potential there is and how rapidly solar power is growing.

          • Well Bob, then perhaps you are splitting hairs, as in your comment on the amount of land mass it would require to reach 100% of our energy needs by solar not being 1% of land mass of Earth. You are absolutely correct, I did the math, and it’s not 1% it’s actually less. So what was your point? That it was an even smaller amount? Well that was my point as well as in it will not require much land mass of the earth or specifically the size of at Alberta, with an area of 661,848 km2. Which is actually an exaggeration as it will take approximately 180,000 sqkm less!

            Now as far as what Ray Kurweil meant by his comment perhaps you may wish to take it up with his because between you and I we will have to agree to disagree because I stand by my interpretation of his statements of what meeting 100% of our energy needs by purely by solar means:

            “We also see an exponential progression in the use of solar energy,” he has predicted. “It is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we’ll meet 100% of our energy needs in 20 years.”

            Since around one-third of that 104GW installed capacity is in Germany and China is only really getting going, Kurzweil’s forecasts don’t look too far-fetched.

            Despite these glitches (or S curves) on his graph, Kurzweill still believes that a “doubling every two years means it’s only eight more doublings before it meets 100% of the world’s energy needs.”

            That takes us to about 2027, close to his predictions in 2008.
            You may choose to retort back Bob but I am sorry I shall not be replying back for efficiencies sake.



          • China is installing a lot more wind than solar. I think that’s an indication that China is not looking at a 100% solar grid.

            I suspect what you are doing is turning a “could” into a “will”.

      • How is that even possible? If you are required to work more for the same amount of energy, you are not richer, but poorer. Now you have less time to create other things or for relaxing.

        • If the cost of electricity goes down then people will have to work less to pay for their electricity.

          It’s fairly certain that renewables will give us cheaper electricity than would fossil fuels or nuclear.

          First, remember that all our current generation plants will wear out and have to be replaced with something. Here’s the options for new capacity today that we can use to replace old plants.

          Coal. More than 15c/kWh plus another 15c or so for external costs.

          Nuclear. At least 11c/kWh with subsidies.

          Natural gas. Around 6c/kWh.

          PV solar. About 6c/kWh (unsubsidized) and dropping rapidly. Should be 4c or less soon.

          Onshore wind. About 4c/kWh (unsubsidized) and continuing to drop.

          After the normal 20 construction/financing payoff the cost of coal and NG would remain a few cents per kWh due to fuel cost. The cost of wind and solar drops to a penny or less.

          And here’s a graph that will show you how old our coal and nuclear plants are. Add five years since the graph was made in 2010.

    • i’m not sure which of his research studies those estimates come from. he has researched the matter extensively and written several books and research papers on the matter:



      Co-director and Professor of Economics
      Robert Pollin’s research centers on macroeconomics, conditions for low-wage workers in the U.S. and globally, the analysis of financial markets, and the economics of building a clean-energy economy in the U.S. His books include A Measure of Fairness: The Economics of Living Wages and Minimum Wages in the United States (co-authored, 2008); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for Kenya (co-authored, 2008); An Employment-Targeted Economic Program for South Africa(co-authored, 2007); Contours of Descent: U.S. Economic Fractures and the Landscape of Global Austerity (2003); and The Living Wage: Building A Fair Economy (co-authored 1998); and the edited volumes Human Development in the Era of Globalization (co-edited 2006); Globalization and Progressive Economic Policy (co-edited, 1998); The Macroeconomics of Saving, Finance, and Investment (1997); and Transforming the U.S. Financial System(co-edited 1993). Most recently, he co-authored the studies “Green Recovery” (September 2008), “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy” (June 2009), and “Green Prosperity” (June 2009) exploring the broader economic benefits of large-scale investments in building a clean-energy economy in the United States. He is currently consulting with the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Labour Organization on the economic analysis of clean-energy investments. He has worked with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa on policies to promote decent employment expansion and poverty reduction in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. He has also worked with the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and as a member of the Capital Formation Subcouncil of the U.S. Competitiveness Policy Council.


      • Thanks Zachary. I looked and skimmed through the results of the two links you supplied above. I didn’t get very far. It’s too esoteric for me and goes right over my head. I like information my mom could understand.

  • Obviously nuclear isn’t included because nobody likes the fact that a handful of technicians could power whole cities with a proven, efficient power source.

    • lol. nuclear is priced out of the market. you may as well be advocating that we use candles to light our cities.

      • Wait, wait; isn’t Indigo talking about a solar power plant. You know, 10 people is all it takes to run and maintain a GW [1,000 MW] solar power plant. That might be what he is saying since it takes 300-600 people to operate and maintain a GW nuclear plant. Just proposing an alternative line of thinking.

    • You haven’t noticed that nuclear is dying?

      Nuclear energy is too expensive, too dangerous and takes too long to bring on line. Even China has cut way back on their nuclear construction plans.

  • More worker cause Co2 Emission, that a bad thing if your trying to save the Planet.

    • Trying to follow your logic here…

      I guess you’re saying that 3 live green energy workers produce more CO2 than a dead coal miner?

      Can’t argue with that….

  • Hi Zachary, Great article. Where is the jobs infographic from? Can you provide more detail on the assumptions and methodology? like are these jobs temporary? or for how many years? And why are renewables more jobs intensive? is it because it’s higher tech to manufacture so requires more people working on it at different stages of the supply chain? or are these more maintenance staff? Any insights valuable! thanks

  • Here are the most current ‘real world’ US prices for wind, solar and nuclear.

    Wind = $0.0235/kWh average 2014 PPA (subsidized).

    DOE “2014 Wind Technologies Market Report”


    Solar = $0.05/kWh PPAs (subsidized) being signed in the US Southwest. Working backwards through a LCOE calculation extrapolates a cost of about $0.02 higher for the less sunny Northeast.

    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory entitled “Utility-Scale Solar 2013: An Empirical Analysis of Project Cost, Performance, and Pricing Trends in the United States”


    PPA prices for wind and solar are lowered about 1.5 cents by PTC (Production Tax Credits). Both wind and solar are eligible for 2.3 cent/kWh tax credits for each kWh produced during their first ten years of operation. Half of 2.3 is 1.15, but getting ones money early has value. That means that the non-subsidized costs of wind are a bit under 4 cents and solar is running 6.5 to 8.5 cents/kWh.


    An analysis of the Vogtle reactor costs by Citigroup in early 2014 found the LCOE for electricity from those reactors will cost 11 cents per kWh (subsidized). That is assuming no further cost/timeline overruns.

    They also stated that reactors built after the Vogtle units would likely produce more expensive electricity as they would not be able to receive the low financing rates as Vogtle has obtained.


    Following the Citigroup study it was announced that the Vogtle reactors would be delayed at least an 30 additional months. The cost of this delay will cost $2 million per day.. That additional cost will push the final cost well over 13 cents per kWh.


    We have two other prices for North American nuclear. Ontario, Canada and San Antonio, Texas asked for “turnkey” bids for new reactors recently. They wanted guaranteed prices, not the sort of “bid low, deliver high” prices we’ve seen with nuclear in the past. Both bids would have meant electricity in excess of 15c/kWh.

    The EIA is predicting that the price of wind five years from now will be 9.5c/kWh. That would be at least a 25% drop in price. No one has shown how new nuclear could be built for 25% less. In fact, the Chinese are offering to build new nuclear in the UK for about 15c and Russia is offering to build new nuclear in Turkey for 12.5c/kWh.

    The EIA is predicting wind to rise from 4c/kWh to 7.4c/kWh over the next five years. Everyone in the wind industry and renewable energy field expects US onshore wind to drop to about 3c/kWh over the next few years. (The EIA numbers are ‘normalized’. They don’t go up due to assumed inflation.)

    The EIA is predicting PV solar to rise from around 6c/kWh to 12.5c/kWh over the next five years. Everyone else is predicting the cost of solar to drop and sometime five to ten years from now the price to be about 2c/kWh in sunny places to 4c/kWh in less sunny places.

    In short, the EIA predictions are running in the opposite direction of essentially everyone else in the energy industry and the EIA gives no rationalization for their predictions.

    IMHO there is something badly wrong in the EIA office that predicts the renewable energy future. You might wish to read this article in order to become aware of some of their other very strange predictions.


    • “If your numbers are correct, then we would expect solar power and wind to outcompete all other energy sources in a free market. If so, why aren’t they doing it already? ”

      Wind and solar have only recently become inexpensive. It takes a little time for countries to understand price shift and how to utilize renewables.

      That said, wind and solar have dominated US electricity installations over the last year or so. Other countries such as Germany are installing a lot of renewables. France is planning on closing about a third of their nuclear reactors and replacing them with renewables. China is installing a lot more wind and solar than nuclear.

      Let me show you some global growth rates for wind, solar and nuclear. I don’t have a graph for global coal plant growth but I do have a graph that show that the globe has been “growing” their coal use over time. In 2015 we are likely to see a decrease in coal use. China’s coal consumption is down about 8% for the year and China burns 50% of the world’s total coal. Use in the US will also be down and the US is the #2 coal consumer. Global coal use could shrink about 5% in 2015.

      • So you realize that solar power is cheaper than coal, but the people who run big businesses and who could make millions of dollars by cutting their costs, have not realized this yet?

        • Coal use is dropping. Solar is rising.

          Does that not suggest to you that the decision makers are starting to “get it”?

          Germany just completed construction of a new coal plant which will not likely ever be turned on. The decision to replace their inefficient coal plants with much more efficient supercritical coal plants was made several years ago. At the time it made sense. But during the years it took to build those replacement plants the cost of wind and solar dropped so much that the coal plants were undermined.

  • What are the numbers – jobs per $1M – for nuclear? The article mentions this topic but the figure does not show it!

Comments are closed.